Making Everything Visual

A while back, I blogged about the differences in rearing a Deaf child compared to a hearing child.  Something else came to mind this week as we were playing and being silly with the boys.

In the past, when my kids were toddlers and were upset about something, I could often soothe them by singing a song with their name in it.  Other times, when we were dancing or being silly, I would have them follow me while I marched and chanted their name.  They would always look a little stunned, then grin from ear-to-ear and even get a little shy at the sound of their name expressed in such a fun way.

Not long after getting back to the states with the boys, we were marching around the couch, playing follow-the-leader.  The kids and I started chanting Tian's name over and over again while clapping in unison and he loved it!  He reacted just like my older kids had when they were little.  I thought about Travis and wondered for a moment how I could duplicate this event so he could enjoy it, too.  I quickly realized it's as easy as making whatever we are doing visual. So, I let the older kids in on my plan and we started marching in unison while signing in rhythm, alternating hands: "Travis!..Travis!..TravisTravisTravis!"  When Travis saw what we were doing, guess what he did?!  The exact same thing my hearing kids had all done!!  He looked a little stunned, grinned from ear-to-ear, laughed, and gave us a shy look since he was obviously getting all the attention!  He loved it!  Making this auditory tradition into a visual event was easy and everyone enjoyed it equally.

Another event occurred last week.  It had been raining outside for two days and the song "Itsy Bitsy Spider" came to my mind.  I was in the bedroom with Tian, getting him ready for a nap.  I began to sing the song, doing the hand-movements right along with it.  Tian was curious, but not totally intrigued by the song.  I thought about how I would do that song with Travis, who was sleeping in the other room.  The hand movements look nothing like real signed language, so I figured I should change it for Tian as well.

I decided to STOP singing and just sign it.  As I did this, there were a few things I did or kept in mind:

1. I signed the story in a way that made sense. 
 If I just signed:
SPIDER-CRAWLING-UP, WATER, PIPE, RAIN, SPIDER, OUT, SUN-up, DRY, ALL, RAIN...etc, that makes absolutely NO sense to a deaf child or hard-of-hearing child who is learning ASL.

2. I signed the story rhythmically. 
The rhythm didn't match the original song, but who cares?!

3. I signed with super-expression.
This helps match the silliness and catchiness of the song.

4. I set up the song by telling a story first, then later gave them context.
When I first introduced this song, I told it like a story.  I set up a house with gutters, the rainy day, etc.  I spent time telling it like a story.  I also took the opportunity next time it rained to show the boys the rain coming down the gutter.  Right there in the middle of the rain, I signed the song so that they could have context to link to the entire thing.

After writing up this blog, I googled and found this excellent rendition by Terrylene at Clerc's Children.

Mine was not nearly as succinct, but the boys loved it!  It looked a little like this:

One last note: You may wonder why I would take the time to teach the kids a nursery rhyme.  I do it just because it's fun and will give them some cultural information they may use later.  My husband is completely oblivious to most nursery rhymes or even Christmas songs, yet he's happy and very successful.  I don't bank my boys' future on little things like these nursery rhymes, but I want to sing, sign, and play with them, so I figure why not use these things to build their vocabulary and cultural knowledge?  Hearing parents, don't settle for believing that your deaf child can't enjoy nursery rhymes and songs.  Just imagine being in their shoes, getting the information visually, and break away from how it's "always been done."  Then have fun with your kid!


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